Saturday, September 17, 2005

Assemblyman Green is not too happy about the mayor's party switch

If Mayor Albert T. McWilliams was a thorn in Assemblyman Jerry Green's side before, he has just pricked him deeper with his late re-entry into the mayoral campaign as a Republican.

Green, also the city's Democratic Party chairman, had been leading early transitional activities for his candidate, Sharon Robinson-Briggs, who beat the two-term incumbent in a bitter June primary fight. In this heavily Democratic city, it was assumed that the primary win meant an easy glide to victory on Nov. 8.

Green's main focus over the summer had been aiding the gubernatorial campaign of Sen. Jon Corzine. Now, instead of intensifying his efforts for Corzine, he said Saturday (Sept. 17, 2005), he will have to raise funds to fight off the new challenge from McWilliams.

"I can't go out of Plainfield," Green said disgustedly.

At his Saturday press conference announcing the switch, McWilliams said in the primary, Green's forces outspent his backers six to one with a $347,000 war chest garnered from Democrats all over the state.

Green said even though McWilliams accused him of pulling in outside money for the local battle, the mayor will now be doing the same thing and campaigning all over the state with Doug Forrester, the GOP's candidate for governor.

The new lineup could also strain local elected officials and administrators who were on their way to accepting the primary results. Several City Council members came into office as New Democrats, bucking the entrenched party rule. McWilliams himself had to run as a New Democrat after he was kicked off the line just days before the primary.

Both Green and McWilliams ran slates for the 68 Democratic City Committee seats up in June, but after the election all the winners automatically became Regular Democrats.

"For the first time in eight years, we had unity in the city," Green said.

Green said he held a city committee meeting Friday night. "Four of the council members are prepared to work with us to move the city ahead," he said.

With Regular Democrat Elliott Simmons running unopposed for the 4th Ward seat in November, Green said he will have a majority of five on the seven-member council after Jan. 1, when Simmons takes office.

The New Democrats held a reorganization after the primary and named Democratic Freeholder Adrian Mapp as president. Mapp said Saturday the group cannot endorse anyone, but individuals are free to vote for whomever they choose.

"It's all about Plainfield. It will be an interesting six weeks," Mapp said.

"I hope at the end of the day that it's victory for Plainfield." McWilliams said he wants to debate Robinson-Briggs as soon as possible. She said Saturday all he has to do is contact her campaign to have a debate arranged."The issues will still be the issues," she said.

But she seemed less annoyed than Green at McWilliams' move. "This is America, and Americans have the right to run for any election," she said.

--Bernice Paglia

KEYWORDS: elections